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My name is Colleen and I find dead people.

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30 December, 2007

Carnival of Genealogy: Resolutions.

It’s time for the 39th installment of The Carnival of Genealogy. This month’s topic is: New Year’s Resolutions. The questions to be answered are:

So what did you accomplish last year and what road blocks did you encounter? What are your research goals for next year and how do you resolve to attain them?

As I look back at the posts from 2007, I realize it was a different kind of research year for me. There had been a lot of changes in my family this year. As a result I had a pretty significant gap in posting, from May to August. I did get quite a bit of scanning accomplished (Thanks, Miriam!). I also made another cousin connection, as a second cousin from my father's McHUGH line found my blog.

My goals for 2008 are to get back to the basics. Last year (maybe even 2 years ago ??) I developed a research goal sheet, on which I identify one research goal, identify what is already known about that goal, and identify what I want to find out. I think it’s time I return to utilizing those goal sheets again to help focus my research.

Above is a snapshot of the form I developed. I made margins as small as possible to get it all on one sheet so information doesn't get separated.

The top got a little cut off, but basically the top of the page identifies the Date of Research, the Place of Research, and the Target of Research (one Target per page).
This shot shows the type of information to be added: The
Goal(s) for research on the Target, Current Speculations, Sources of those Speculations, and Potential Resources to find and use.
Finally, along the bottom right is a Q & A on whether or not I found the Source and the Information I was seeking. I added this as a way to trigger me to follow up with unfinished business at the end of each research session: One look at the page and I'll know if that project was completed. My first Goal Sheet of the year will be for the Goal of finding out who the parents of my great-grandfather James O'ROURKE (1876-1944) were.

While getting back to the basics of research methods is a big goal for me this year, my biggest goal is to start ordering vital records. I have pretty much determined that there was likely only one line of all my branches in the U.S. prior to 1869. I've found most of them, with the exception of the above mentioned O'ROURKE line. There is no way to get any further back in my research here; I need to jump the pond to Ireland and Czech Republic. The only way to narrow my searches there is to hopefully find birth, marriage, and death records. I’m not likely to find many birth records given Pennsylvania's lack of requiring them prior to 1905, but one never knows.

23 December, 2007

Advent Calendar December 24: Christmas Eve

Today is Christmas Eve, and it's the last Advent Calendar of Memories post for this season. The topic is "Christmas Eve". I've posted several times about how we spent Christmas Eve at my father's parents' house. I posted about the cookies, the dinner, the guests. Did I post about the tabletop Christmas tree with the color wheel? If I didn't, well, I just did. But something else I remember about Christmas Eve was the reading of "A Visit from St. Nicholas", also known as "Twas the Night Before Christmas". I remember being awed by that poem, that was written in the form of a book, just as I was awed by the sight of the aircraft I once thought was Santa Claus! I reprint it here for the child in all of us. Before I close, I want to say a special thank you to Thomas MacEntee for a great Holiday Sharing Actifvity! Merry Christmas to All ... well, read on!
Twas the Night Before Christmas
Clement Clarke Moore, 1822
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!
"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.
His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

21 December, 2007

You have GOT to Check This Out!

For those of you who read my blog and other of my genea-bloggers' as well, you have to go to Janice's Cow Hampshire "AMOK" post and view all the videos! The first is on the main page; the others that follow are linked at the beginning of each paragraph. It's a HOOT!

Thanks, Janice for the laugh. It was a great way to start my Friday morning before heading off to work. Too bad my workplace blocks jib jab videos (even when imbedded in blogs).

20 December, 2007

Advent Calendar Decemer 21: Christmas Music

I LOVE Christmas Music! One of the local radio stations plays Holiday Music 24/7 every day from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day. And weekdays, they have "No Repeat from 9 to 5" so you can imagine they have quite the collection. They'll play the same song by different artists, though.

I remember a few times going Caroling, back in New York. We had a lot of fun in spite of the snow and cold. I love the "Novel Noels", those goofy Christmas songs, especially "The Hippo Song" and "The Chimney Song". They make laugh, which is something we all need always, but especially during the hustle and bustle of Christmas.

My all time favorite Christmas Song that I think expresses the Reason for the Season is "Do You Hear What I Hear". I also really love Josh Groban's version of "Oh Holy Night". He has the perfect voice for that song. In another post I raved about my newest Christmas CD by Celtic Woman. Today I will rave about another of my favorite Christmas CD's, "Celtic Christmas" by Eden's Bridge. I purchased this CD through MusicMatch a few years ago, and lost the CD I made. Now my CD burner is broken and I can't figure out how to get the CD on a memory stick to bring somewhere to make another copy. It's a great CD.

But my all time favorite Christmas song of all types? The Little Drummer Boy. I referred to this song in an earlier post but wouldn't say why it was my favorite. Here's the story:

As a little girl, my grandmother O'ROURKE lived with us. She would babysit while mom and dad were at work. Gramma was of the perspective that little children needed naps every day (read: grammas needed naps every day). I, however, didn't see any use for a nap. None whatsoever no matter what (today I treasure them). In fact, once my parents couldn't find me anywhere, and had the entire neighborhood looking for me. All over. She was about to call the police when she found me: Asleep on my bed. She didn't think to look there since I never voluntarily took a nap. She assumed I was playing somewhere in the yard and left.
Anyway, gramma believed in daily naps. But I fought and fought against them. But then she found her hook: "If you take a nap for me, I'll play "The Little Drummer Boy" for you when you wake up". That was it! In I went for my nap. Didn't matter if it was December or July. Play that song, I'd do almost anything.

I don't think I've ever heard a version of The Little Drummer Boy that I didn't like. Except if I'm singing it. I can't carry a tune to save my life.

18 December, 2007

Advent Calendar December 19: Shopping

Ah, a subject fit to nearly every woman's heart! Today's theme for the Advent of Christmas Memories Calendar is Christmas Shopping:

How did your family handle Christmas Shopping? Did anyone finish early or did anyone start on Christmas Eve?

I remember as a child, after learning the true meaning of Santa Clause, waiting at home with my brothers while my parents went shopping. When they came home, we had to be upstairs so we wouldn't see what they were bringing in.

After we'd moved to Arizona, my parents changed tactics. They'd pick one weekday between Thanksgiving and Christmas and each take that day off work. They'd go to the mall and do all the shopping on that day.

I used to enjoy doing a little shopping each weekend day during the holidays. I loved going to the mall in the midst of the craziness the day after Thanksgiving. Until I worked for Target as a cashier. After those 4 years were done, I rarely shopped the day after Thanksgiving.

These days, I shop when I get the energy to. My biggest problem the last several years is getting it done on time to ship the gifts off to my family out of state. One brother lives in Georgia, the other in various states. As it is, my gifts to Georgia just got shipped via UPS today. They said there's a chance it'll get there Monday, but a good chance the day after Christmas, too.

17 December, 2007

Advent Calendar December 17: Stockings

The questions to be answered by today's Advent of Christmas Memories Calendar are:

Did you have one? Where did you hang it? What did you get in it?

Yes, each member of the family had one. They were absolutely not hung until Christmas Eve, when we were gathered in front of the fireplace right before bedtime. We each hung our own stocking on the mantel. We usually got some actual gifts, like a deck of cards or barettes or matchbox cars. There were also usually necessary stuff, like a toothbrush or something or other boring.

As an adult, do I still use stockings? You tell me.

14 December, 2007

Christmas Carol Tag

footnoteMaven has challenged the Geneabloggers to identify and print their favorite Christmas Carol. Mine is The Little Drummer Boy. I won't say why, because that's for an Advent of Christmas Memories post later on.

The Little Drummer Boy
Katherine K. Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone, 1958
Come, they told me pa-rum-pum-pum-pum
A newborn king to see pa-rum-pum-pum-pum
Our finest gifts we bring pa-rum-pum-pum-pum
To lay before the king pa-rum-pum-pum-pum rum-pum-pum-pum rum-pum-pum-pum
So to honor him pa-rum-pum-pum-pum
When we come.
Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That's fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
my drum?
Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum Me and my drum.

13 December, 2007

Advent Calendar December 14: Fruitcake

Think back to high school. Think back to the clubs and/or organizations you belonged to. Think back to the stuff you used to sell to raise funds for those clubs/organizations.

Candy bars. Magazines. Bagels. Car Washes. Fruitcake.

Yes, you read me right. Fruitcake.

When I was in high school, I was active in the Drama Club. Particularly in my Freshman and Sophomore years. We sold several things to raise money, plus ran concessions at the plays we put on. But our biggest fundraiser of every year was selling fruitcake.

Selling fruitcake earned us new props. New costumes. Printing services. Even helped pay for a trip to California's Universal Studios.

Yes, you read me right.


12 December, 2007

Advent Calendar December 13: Seasonal "Arts"

Christmas Pipes Christmas Pipes
Calling us home on Christmas Night
Calling us far, calling us near
Oh play me your Christmas Pipes


Christmas Choir, Christmas Choir
Christmas carols 'round Christmas Fire
Holy night, Angels on High
Oh Round up Your Christmas Choir....
Words and music by Brendan Graham (Acorn Music Ltd.)

The above lyrics are performed by Celtic Woman on their CD, "A Christmas Celebration". It's a great CD, by the way.

But I reprint those lyrics because ... well, because I wanted to. Hey, I needed something to serve as a segue to the only way the Arts have played a role in my Christmases past: In the form of Christmas Caroling.

As a child, we made a few attempts of strolling the neighborhood singing Christmas Carols door-to-door. Usually this meant bundling up as we did to go sledding, since Western NY winters tend to be cold. I remember getting to the house behind us and to the right and being invited in after our carol for a cup of hot cocoa. (This same woman would invite us in for hot cocoa when trick or treating, too which wasn't unheard of to happen in snow). It was a time and place where that type of interaction was safe.

In high school in Tempe, Az I took two years of guitar. The second year, we strolled the hallways of the English and History building, strumming and and singing secular holiday songs. It was a time and place where we could still get away with that.

As an adult member of a church group, one year we strolled the neighborhood of the church, singing carols as part of a holiday activity they called Las Posada (forgive my spelling). It was at ime and place where we could still do that in a public street. In fact, we probably still could.

11 December, 2007

Advent Calendar December 12: Charity Works

Today I'm going to post about Christmas Present. As in now. I mentioned in an earlier post that I work at a Children's Clinic where kids with special (and often unique) health care needs receive care. Every year the Volunteer Coordinator coordinates the Holiday Help program.

We have two programs this year. A local insurance company contacted Lori, our coordinator asking if they could adopt some of our children for Christmas. We collected names and demographic information for several weeks. The insurance company and a few other entities managed to adopt about 160 children, who will each receive some clothes and a gift or two.

The other program is the Toys for Tots program run by the Marines. Families will be able to come in on the appointed day to pick out their toys for their children. So far I believe we are up to 600 children for this program! That's a total of about 760 children who are getting a Christmas because of community programs.

Every agency I've worked at for the past 20 years has had some type of holiday help program for families facing difficulty. I know there are agencies in your community too, and/or a Christmas Angel Tree at a local mall. It's amazing how far adopting just one child, or even adult, can go (don't forget your local senior citizens!).

Another agency in town is called the Community Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona. They accept donations of and coordinate delivery of diapers and protective undergarments for children, the disabled, and the elderly. A local radio station has the December Diaper Drive every year, kicked off by a special holiday presentation of an adapted "Christmas Carol" play.

So today I remember to post a big THANK YOU to Lori at my work for the fantastic job she's been doing, to all the agencies nationwide who help families in need, and to MIXFM, 94.9 in Tucson for the great work they do for the Community Diaper Bank.

10 December, 2007

Advent Calendar December 11: Holiday Travel

Above is an image from of a map of Reservoir State Park in Niagara Falls, NY, and it shows the extent of my travels during the holiday season.

We stayed close to home for the holidays. Western NY winters weren't exactly ideal conditions for travel. One travel destination whenever there was snow, however, was the reservoir for some sledding.
Not far from our house on Garlow Road was the reservoir. On one side was a popular sledding site. We'd put on our heaviest socks, and put them over the socks we already had on. Actually, we'd put the outer socks over our pants legs and tape the socks to the pants. (Taping the socks to the pants kept the snow that would inevitably go up the snow-pant legs from also going up the regular pants-legs and onto our bare legs ). We'd put on the snow pants. We'd put on our boots. We'd put on our heaviest sweaters. We'd put on our snow jackets. We'd put on the warmest, non-knit gloves we had, but only after we'd put on the scarves. We'd put on the fancy-schmancy SKI MASKS and smear our lips with chapstick. We'd gather up our friends, and traipse off to the house of the unfortunate parent that was driving us. We'd pack up our sleds. We'd climb in the car and off we'd go.

We'd get to the reservoir and traipse up the slope and to the starting point.

And just as promptly as we'd said "YES" to the suggestion of going sledding.....

We'd have to go potty.

Too bad, though. There were no potties at the reservoir.

(sleds image from; ski mask image from

09 December, 2007

Advent Calendar December 10: The Funniest Gifts

Regardless of how tight things were in our household, we always managed a good load at Christmas. Of course, I, at least, was very easy to please. As a young child of oh, I'd say about 5 or 6, I begged and begged for but one simple gift. "Mom, I PROMISE, if you tell Santa to bring me this one gift, I'll never, EVER ask for anything EVER again! I PROMISE". What was this gift that I so badly wanted more than anything else?

A new pillow.

Several years later, however, that promise was long forgotten. We got some pretty dang decent Christmas gifts during our time. Like the Toss 'A Cross game that I accidentally opened one night while my parents were at a party. (it's true, really: it was an accident. I tossed a ball and it landed in the pile of gifts under the tree. When I went to get the ball my foot got caught in the present and it opened!). Or the Talking Football game my brothers got one year (I got to play it, too). Or the bikes.

But the one gift that struck me as the funniest gift of all wasn't a gag gift; it was, in fact, probably the most extravagant gift we'd ever gotten. But you have to hear the story before finding out what the gift was.

We had been opening gifts in the morning. I suspect my parents felt a very slight sense of disappointment in the air as we opened up the last of the gifts. None of us kids would say anything, because we were taught to appreciate what we had, and we weren't by any means rich, and we were all old enough to realize how hard mom and dad worked to provide for us. We figured maybe things were tighter than we'd known. But all the same, we kids couldn't help but notice that there were very few gifts under the tree.

When we finished unwrapping the gifts, my parents asked one of my brothers to go to the basement to get a trash bag for all the wrappings. Off he went, while the rest of us looked over our loot. A few minutes went by and my parents started looking at each other and wondering aloud what was taking my brother so long down there. Still more minutes went by without a sound from below. Still more odd looks between our parents. Then, all of a sudden, a holler from the bowels of the house:

My parents started laughing, and my other brother and I bolted down to the cellar where we found the one brother standing, staring at the biggest gift we'd ever gotten, fully assembled:
Our parents joined us downstairs, still laughing. Through their guffaws, they had to ask my brother: "How in the world did you MISS this thing?" I don't think I'd ever seen my brother looking so sheepish and moreover, speechless. In fact, I don't think I've seen him speechless since.

Oh, did you ask if I ever got that pillow I'd asked for?

Yes, and I did truly reneg on the promise I'd made to never ask for anything ever again!

08 December, 2007

Advent Calendar December 9: Holiday Parties

Today's topic is Holiday Parties and here are the questions posed to us:

Did your family throw a holiday party each year?


Do you remember attending any holiday parties?

No. Unless you count the Chrismas Eve get together at dad's parents' house. I do remember my parents getting all gussied up to go to a party. I thought I had pictures of them, but I can't find them.


I DID find a somewhat better picture of our Christmas Tree and the platform underneath:As well as the now semi-famous pink velvet dress and black boots picture:
Which, believe it or not, cannot compare with Aunt Norie's outfit (may she and her children forgive me):I'll close with what would have been a really great picture had I not turned my head, and had the picture-taker aimed a little lower....

Bottom, left to right: My cousin Susan, me, my brother Terry, my cousin Paul. Middle left is my brother Shawn. Back are my grandmother Mary (HODICK) and Joseph McHUGH. This was taken at my grandparents' house on Christmas Eve, I'd say around 1973.

Okay, so the better part of this post was off-topic for today's Advent Calendar, but mostly it was on topics already covered ... I just happened to remember I had two full albums that I haven't even started to scan yet and these pictures were in one of them.

(Well, actually I have 5 albums and one photo-storage box half - full still to scan.)

Hurry Up, Scanfest, Hurry Up!

07 December, 2007

Advent Calendar December 8: Cookies

Today's topic for the Advent Calendar of Christmas memories is Christmas cookies, and here are the questions we are supposed to answer:

Did your family make Christmas Cookies? How did you help? Did you have a favorite cookie?

Grandma McHUGH made Christmas Cookies. I didn't help. Mom didn't make Christmas Cookies. I didn't help.

That's really all I have to say on the matter!

06 December, 2007

Advent Calendar December 7: Grab Bag

Today's Advent Calendar Topic is a grab bag, which means I get to choose my own topic. Yesterday we posted on Santa Claus, so I thought I'd continue on that trend for today, which describes an unintentional encounter with Santa and how I found out the true meaning of Santa.

A memory I failed to mention yesterday about Santa was one when we were coming home from Grandma and Grandpa McHUGH's house in Niagara Falls. We'd spent Christmas Eve as usual, eating dinner and exchanging (actually, getting!) gifts with grandparents and aunts/uncles/cousins. We would all dress up for this evening, as we would when going to Christmas Mass the next day. One year I wore a pink velvet skirt with matching vest, white blouse and black knee-high boots!

On this one particular Christmas Eve we left grandpa and grandma's house later than usual. My brothers and I were in the back seat of the car, as most kids would be. We were driving a different way than normal, though I don't recall why. I do recall, however, driving on the road that is beneath the reservoir and seeing red flashing lights in the sky. I remember YELLING at my dad to "HURRY UP AND DRIVE, SANTA'S UP THERE AND IF WE'RE NOT ASLEEP BEFORE HE GETS TO OUR HOUSE HE WON'T STOP AT OUR HOUSE!".

Ah, the innocence of youth. A year or two later, I remember sitting next to my mom at, I believe the store was called LaBelle's. It was a catalog type store, where you'd order something from the catalog, then pick it up at the store. Anyway, as we were sitting there, it dawned on me that if there was a Santa, why would mom be here buying my Christmas present (she'd already told me that a bike was one of my gifts,, though I don't recall why)? So I looked at mom and simply said, "There is no Santa, is there?". She answered what good parents do: She said the Spirit of Christmas was as real as any figure we attach to it.

My dad, assembling my Barbie Townhouse and opening his gift.

My brothers Shawn and Terry and me playing a game We'd gotten for Christmas, and my mom opening oneof her gifts.

05 December, 2007

December 6: Advent of Christmas Calendar: Santa

Today's Advent of Christmas Memories topic is Santa Claus, and the questions to answer are:

Did you ever send a letter to Santa? Did you ever visit Santa and “make a list?” Do you still believe in Santa Claus?

I honestly do not remember if I ever sent a letter to Santa. I am sure I did (heck, if I mailed a letter to Shaun Cassidy as a 14 year old, I'm sure I mailed a letter to Santa as a 4 year old!). Since I can't remember if I ever sent a letter to him, I certainly can't remember what might have been in the letter!

Now Visiting Santa is a different story. I remember being taken to see Santa at a department store in Niagara Falls. I remember my brothers going to see him. I remember being told by my mom that it was my turn. I remember taking a single step towards him, and I remember turning away and grabbing my mom's leg in tears. Yes, I was afraid of Santa Claus! Sad to say, it made no difference to me when Santa took off his hat, beard and glasses and my grandfather Joseph McHUGH was revealed. I still refused to go to him!

Do I still believe in Santa Claus? Well, let's put it this way. I work at a Children's Clinic, where kids with special health care needs, such as Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, and Cardiac problems, receive care. Twice ... yes, twice ... in the past month I had the privilege of meeting babies whose doctors all said would never leave the hospital alive and would not survive even a weekend. These babies are still alive, and one is no longer identified as "terminal".

So yes, I do believe in Santa Claus.

04 December, 2007

Advent Calendar December 5: Outdoor Lights

This next edition of the Advent of Christmas Memories among genea-bloggers asks:

Did people in your neighborhood decorate with lights? Did some people really go “all out” when decorating?

Above is the house I grew up in in Niagara Falls, NY. It was a great place to grow up. Off to the right you can see the fruit trees we had (apple, pear and cherry). I'll never understand why dad planted that tree in the middle of the front yard (it ruined our football field).

Anyway, we did decorate the house at Christmas. We strung lights (the big bulbs, non-flashing (did they have flashing and/or mini-lights in the 60's and 70's?). The lights would frame the house along the top. My dad had made a big star out of plywood, then covered it in aluminum foil. He drilled holes along the edges of the star and strung lights around the star and hung it on middle rail post of the porch. I'm sure if we currently lived there, we'd have added animated deer, inflatable Christmas characters, lights in the trees, etc. This is the house we lived in when we lived in Tempe, Az. We framed the house top with lights (I don't remember if we used the big ones or minis), but that was about it.

We always decorated the inside of the house, too. We hung a wreath, garland, stockings on the fireplace (in NY; we didn't have a fireplace in Tempe), and anything really that looked Christmassy.

Since I've lived on my own, I have always decorated the inside of my home. Until this year, I'd lived in apartments, so there wasn't much I could do outside. But I always decorated inside. Last Christmas I found out rather suddenly, two weeks before Christmas, that I was going to need to move and do so within 2 weeks to accommodate a change in the family. Since I already had decorated the day after Thanksgiving, I had to take everything down before Christmas. Now that was depressing.

This year I'm in a house. I got a big tree (artificial and pre-lit ... what a WONDERFUL invention). And I got outdoor lights, as well as an animated reindeer and an inflatable snowman.

By the way, an even better invention than pre-lit Christmas trees? A Christmas-light hanging toolkit that includes an extendable pole and plastic clips. I didn't need a ladder to do the outside of the house ! (I get excited over the simplest of things). Below is a picture of my first outdoor decorating venture, though it's not the best quality, since my camera isn't too good at lights at night. To the right there is the nose of the lit, animated reindeer. This weekend I'm going to add lights around the post of the arch between the snowman and the reindeer and a grid light set over the bush you can't see in front of the snowman.

03 December, 2007

Advent Calendar December 4: Cards

Here are the questions to be addressed in this edition of the Advent Calendar regarding Christmas Cards:

Did your family send them? Did your family display the ones they received? Do you still send Christmas cards?

Yes, we always sent out Christmas cards. One thing that is very different for my generation (my parents', too, really) is that we are very mobile. Our grandparents and great-grandparents generally stayed close together; the lack of transportation meant people worked close to home, played close to home, and married close to home. Not so anymore.

My paternal grandparents, Joseph and Mary (HODICK) McHUGH moved from Nanticoke, Luzerne County, PA, ( to Niagara Falls NY around 1941 (photo courtesy of
My maternal grandparents moved from Pittston, Luzerne County, PA to Niagara Falls, NY around 1934.

My parents moved us from Niagara Falls, Niagara County, NY to Tempe, Maricopa County, AZ in 1977.
We didn't have any relatives in Arizona, just a hope for a warmer climate with lower taxes (or so I'm told ;) ). While we kept in touch in the beginning, correspondence between us and family back home dwindled with the years. Christmas cards were one way to make sure family and friends knew we still thought of them.

And yes, we did incorporate received cards into our holiday decorations. They were hung on a wall, each one individually, as opposed to in a pocket of a holiday wall hanging.

I still send out cards to friends and family in Niagara Falls, even though it's been 30 years this year since we left. I still hang up received cards on a wall, each one individually, as opposed to in a pocket of a holiday wall hanging.

This year, I sent cards to people who may not even know I exist, or haven't seen or heard from me in 40 years. These people I sent them to are cousins of my mother's who will either wonder who that card is from and toss it or wonder what spurred me to send them a card now, after all these years.

02 December, 2007

The Advent Calendar Dec. 3: Holiday Food

OH how I wish I could remember what food Grandma (HODICK) McHUGH used to put out! I remember very little, however, other than the cookies. So I asked dad to help me out a little.

Christmas Eve was when we got together at Grandma and Grandpa McHUGH's house. My parents, two brothers and I would go, as well as my dad's sister, Aunt Norie and her husband, Joe and their two children Paul and Susan. And of course, Aunt Maryann was there, too.

To dad's recollection, Grandma always served Ham, Potatos, Sauerkraut and carrots as the main meal. The only part of this I remember is the Sauerkraut.

I also remember (God help me on the spelling here) Pfeffernuesse Cookies (thank you, Google) -- those soft-ish ginger type round cookies covered in powdered sugar(pictured above, courtesy of Grandma always made those. She also had peanut butter cookies and something dad thought was called something like Kalochin ... it was a nut roll of some type. She also made these cookies that dad described as kind of a bar cookie, only it had fruit over the top and the four edges of the square were folded in towards the center. He think it's an Italian cookie? Google did not help me on these last two cookies, so if you know what I'm talking about, please, do share :).

The only other food thing I remember about Christmas at Grandma McHugh's were the hard ribbon candies. She had those every year, in every corner of the house! Candy canes, too. Last year I saw a tin of those ribbon candies and just had to buy some for old times' sake.

Christmas Day was started at home opening gifts. Then we'd go off to my mother's brother's house. There we'd eat and exchange gifts with Uncle Jimmy, Aunt Joyce, and my cousins Patty, Kevin, Maureen, Brian, and Tim. And Grandma (DOYLE) O'ROURKE. As I got a little older, we had to pick Gramma up at the nursing home, first :(.

Dinner at the O'ROURKE's house, if I remember correctly, was traditional turkey dinner. Turkey, stuffing, potatos/gravy, the whole thing.

A few years ago some friends and I decided to have a Christmas Cookie exchange. I learned quickly that I do not know how to bake. I wound up tossing the sugar cookie I attempted to make and going to Target to get some Christmas Tins with cookies in them. For the recipe I had to bring with my cookies, I typed up the instructions for driving to Target to get the tins!

This year, I decided someone needs to pick up Grandma's tradition of home-baked cookies at Christmas, so I asked a friend of mine if I could join her when she bakes to learn how. Yesterday was my first lesson, and we made a lemon bar and chocolate chip cookie bars. Four remained out; the rest are in the freezer!

01 December, 2007

Advent Calendar December 2: Ornaments

Growing up, I don't recall any special Ornament ritual, such as making them as a family, or things of that nature. I do remember, however, that all three of us kids were required to be present to put them on the tree (we never complained about this!). I remember at times getting impatient with Dad whose job it was to put the lights on the tree, though, since the lights and the garland had to go up first.

When it was time to put up the ornaments, we'd all sit in front of the tree. Mom was in charge of doling out the ornaments, one-by-one, to us kids to put them on the tree. She always started with the ones we'd made ourselves, at school, church, or wherever. She'd pick one out and whoever made that ornament got to put it on the tree, anywhere he/she'd like. Once the homemade ornaments were done, she'd continue doling out ornaments in the same way. I remember each year being allowed to hang the more fragile ornaments as I grew. Each year she'd give me a "breakable" ornament, I felt more and more grown up!

When we became teenagers and had moved to Arizona, this ritual with the ornaments pretty much faded away. But while the ritual went away, the homemade ornaments stuck around throughout our growing up years until they finally saw their last hanging, worn and weathered, and mostly unrecognizeable.

On the First Day of Christmas

For the next 25 days my posts will be on various issues about Christmas growing up. The idea in the geneaological blogging community is for participants to blog about a different Christmas memory (ies) each day according to that day's theme.
Each day (hopefully) I'll submit a different post on a different topic. You can read it here, and if you like to read about people's Christmas memories, you can read the host blog by THOMAS (Click Here) who will provide summaries and links to participating bloggers' Christmas Memories posts. Through his page you can also see the topics for the entire month.

December 1 Post Topic: The Christmas Tree.

I only recall having artificial trees growing up. Some people think that's horrible but I only have good memories of our trees. I think my mother might disagree to a point, but I digress. Our tree went up Thanksgiving weekend and came down New Year's day. As an adult, I follow this same practice (minus the platform, unfortunately).

The above picture is actually taken from my Aunt Norie's scrapbook and I presume it was the Christmas tree she had as a teenager, since other pictures show here in front of it. The platform beneath the tree, however, is what stirs memories for me.

While hard to see in this picture, there are village houses, pine trees, people, mountain paper and brick paper. And a Nativity Scene. These items originally belonged to my great-grandparents Edward and Justina (Nahodil) HODICK. They were passed down to my grandmother Mary, and then to my father. We used to put up a huge plywood-based platform under the tree just like grandma and grandpa did here. On one side of the tree we set up the village, on the other, the nativity. We then made a path from the village to the manger out of dirt (when available in December in Western NY) or coffee. The tree was placed similarly to the one above.

Our Christmas Tree provided many happy memories while growing up. The entire village and nativity were passed down to my brother. Hopefully, he still gets some use of them.

Oh, you might be wondering why my mother may not have felt the same as I do about the Christmas Tree and Platform? While we all pitched in to help put it up, we somehow managed to "be busy" when it was time to take it all down, leaving mom to do it herself. Every year she'd say "That's it. No tree or platform next year."

But she never made good on that threat.

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